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Seven reasons I love my oncologist

Why the man who saved my life continues to rock my world.
It has been seven years since I found out that I had CML, and if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that your healthcare team is essential to recovery, both physically and emotionally. There are many hematologists and nurses who are excellent at what they do. These are the people who take the time to educate patients, and who work hard at providing support, not only during the early months of diagnosis but also in the years afterwards.
Dr. Jeff Lipton, at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, is one of these doctors – and if you don’t believe me, ask anyone. Seriously.
When I met him seven years ago, you could say it was one of the luckiest days of my life (notwithstanding the whole CML thing). Empathetic and smart, Dr. Lipton has made all the difference in my CML journey, and that of many other patients. Here are my top seven reasons why I think he is great.

1. He doesn’t think I am crazy (at least he hasn’t told me). In the very early days of my diagnosis, I was having a particularly bad day. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I called him and asked if I’d be able to feel leukemia cells multiplying in my body, because I thought for sure I could feel it. Really. It was a long weekend, the man was on call, but he didn’t even flinch. He just quietly took a breath, and said no.

2. He makes jokes. So there I am lying on my side for a bone marrow biopsy. As the needle is put into my back, he asks me to put my hand on my stomach. When I anxiously ask why, he says with a chuckle, “Because if you feel the needle, I’ll know I have gone too far.” And by the time I figure out he is joking, the biopsy is done.

3. He makes time for me. He answers my emails, he speaks at patient support events, and he returns my calls. Even though he travels all over the world speaking about CML, he is always there for his patients.

4. He continues to save my life. Once during a routine appointment, he glanced at my slightly red nose piercing and offered to swab it. Turns out I had a staph infection. A few years later, I woke up with barely enough energy to have a shower. I didn’t even have enough strength to get dressed. After a bunch of visits to my GP’s office and a walk-in clinic resulted in nothing more than being told to go home and rest, he sees me for five minutes and guesses that I have the H1N1 virus. He was right.

5. He honestly cares about people. I once witnessed him give medical advice to a young woman who asked about abdominal pain – in the middle of a conference planning meeting.

6. He likes little people. My kids think he’s great.

7. He knows his stuff. Dr. Lipton is a world-renowned thought leader in CML. Enough said.

A portion of this list can also be found on Reprinted with permission from Novartis Oncology.

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